Late last year Dr Rachel Andrew and I had the huge pleasure of being invited onto the Scummy Mummies podcast to talk about our book The Supermum Myth. It was so much fun recording it and made me realise that laughter truly is the best medicine sometimes, and I don’t know about you but laughter is something that as a mum I don’t tend to make space for…I laugh a lot with my children, and at the endearing and bonkers and lovely things that they do, often I’m smiling broadly and laughing about silly antics…but belly laughing that comes from deep within your soul resulting from a shared humour with a fellow adult human, this is something that isn’t a huge part of my life at the moment. As one of the mums I chatted to for the Supermum Myth said, “I feel like I don’t have laughter that reaches beyond my eyes any more, that spreads to my cheeks and my belly”.
In the podcast we talk, and laugh, about all things Supermum, about how your birth experience can inform your experience of the first months (years..) of motherhood if you don’t allow yourself to catch it and place more positive mental groove in place. About your internal dialogue and how powerful it is, about breathing…and, incidentally, about the therapeutic power of spitting, and my scummy mummy nit confession… At one point, Ellie suggested that the book could alternatively be known as “How not to feel like a shit mum”…which actually was one of the working titles at one point. Oddly rejected by the publisher, who knows why?! Tune in, and let me know what you think!
I’m also going to see the Scummies tonight in Nunhead and I just cannot wait…I feel like I need the release of laughter as a de-stressor after a stressful few weeks. I’m not really a crier, lots of women I know have a good old cry when their capacity bubbles over and feel better for it, but for whatever reason I don’t have that reaction to events…I’ve always wondered whether it is a knee-jerk self-protect mechanism, as when I went through a year of life bereavement when my best friend died suddenly, followed closely after by the break up of my long-term relationship, I distinctly remember feeling like I was dissolving in tears, like I was turning into liquid permanently as I was crying so much. I think possibly since then my body has a shut down mechanism of not wanting to revisit that watery place, so where a lot of people might cry when things get on top of them, that drawbridge is tightly shut for me. I’m more of an angry beast when things get on top of me, I get irritable and sweary, or I get a cold and generally feel run down in a physical way. What I actually need is a good ugly snotty cry occasionally to let it all out, a cathartic release of toxins and emotions.
But this has got me thinking about laughter, and how cathartic and energy-shifting that can be as well. How lifted and changed you feel after a belly laugh. I started thinking about the physiological effects of laughter as a soother. I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about the rest and digest system recently: the essential and opposite yin and yang balance to the fight or flight. I had listened to the Scummy Mummies chat with Dr Genevieve Von Lob , author of Five Deep Breaths: The Power of Mindful Parenting the other day while escaping from the mayhem of a Saturday morning pyjama fest at home, taking myself out for a calming walk and podcast listen. She talked really interestingly about the Vagus nerve and its role in the rest and digest system. The vagus nerve isn’t the only nerve in the parasympathetic system, but it’s by far the most important one because it has the most far-reaching effects.
The word vagus means “wanderer,” so named because it sprawls and wanders all over the body to various important organs: reaching the brain, gut, heart, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, kidney, ureter, spleen, lungs, fertility organs, neck, ears, and tongue. In the brain, the vagus has a powerful role in helping to control anxiety and depression, and it is generally the vital link in the Mind–Body chain that we really need to be in balance for a healthy and well life.
Ways to stimulate the vagus nerve include yoga, meditation, singing, breathing, exercise – all these things are ways of finding magic of FLOW where you are completely immersed in the present moment and with what you are doing; oxytocin is a hormonal stimulant of the vagus. Coffee and sunshine are also good ways to stimulate the vagus. And, happily, laughter. Laughter is also good for cognitive function, protects against heart disease, and can benefit the vascular system. So, laughter really IS the best medicine.
I would check out that Scummy Mummies podcast now then if I were you! xxx